President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Ladies and gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to express my high assessment of the results the Fourth Caspian Summit has produced. One of the biggest achievements was the considerable progress made in preparing the convention on the Caspian’s legal status. This was made possible by the fact that we have now agreed on the key principles for our countries’ activity in the Caspian.
These principles are set out in the political declaration that the five presidents just signed. This declaration will form the future convention’s cornerstone. I cannot claim that all issues have been settled completely, but there are far fewer outstanding matters now.
Our experts have received the instruction to step up consultations on the remaining issues to be settled and we have every reason to expect that we will soon have the convention ready for signing and will thus successfully conclude the work that has been going on for 18 years now.
More specifically, our talks enabled us to reach agreement on clear wording on delimiting marine areas, the seabed, subsoil resources, and rules and principles covering navigation and fishing. The provision that the greater part of the Caspian Sea’s marine area remains in our countries’ common use is very important. This makes it possible to rule out the sorts of misunderstandings and tension in our interstate relations that previously could arise over different interpretations of the rules governing the Caspian waters.
The declaration sets out a fundamental principle for guaranteeing stability and security, namely, that only the Caspian littoral states have the right to have their armed forces present on the Caspian. This was the way the situation developed over history, and we do not seek to change it now. In general, only the five Caspian countries that have sovereign rights over the Caspian Sea and its resources will resolve all matters pertaining to the region.
I think it is important to activate joint efforts on the basis of the Agreement on Security Cooperation in the Caspian Sea, which came into force yesterday. This is a framework agreement, and in order to implement its provisions in optimum fashion, we have set the task of drafting without delay protocols on cooperation between our five countries’ border guard and tax services. The Russian Border Guard Service has already taken the initiative of drafting this document and sent it to our colleagues.
We gave the economy particular focus. Russia’s trade with Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan came to $33 billion in 2013. This is an impressive figure but it does not match our countries’ potential. In this respect, we discussed steps to activate our trade ties, increase reciprocal investment flows and launch large-scale projects.
We see joint development of transport infrastructure as very promising, for example. One priority is to develop the North-South corridor that will link countries in western and northwest Europe with southern Asia via Russia, the Caspian basin and Iran. All five littoral states are involved in this project. Its implementation would halve the shipping distance compared to the current route.
Another idea is to build a railway encircling the Caspian. The eastern semi-circle line linking Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran will be completed by the end of this year. In fact, our colleagues informed us earlier that this work is already nearly completed.
Work on the western semi-circle linking Azerbaijan and Iran should be completed in 2016. The aim is to link the main Caspian ports, which will cut freight transport times and costs considerably and thereby help to make our economies more competitive.
Aside from financing, many multilateral projects also require a lot of ongoing organisational support, and so we have agreed to look at setting up a five-party organisation that would be responsible for these matters. Our colleagues put forward various proposals on this subject today, and Russia supports these ideas. This might be a gradual process, taking each required step at a time, but we will certainly move in this direction.
As you know, the Caspian is an enclosed inland sea and has a fragile ecosystem that is highly vulnerable to external impact. Any industrial accident could have a disastrous effect on the sea’s ecosystem and would have consequences too for the lives of all of our countries’ people. This is why we put such emphasis on the agreement on five-party cooperation in disaster relief and clean-up. We agreed to develop this agreement’s provisions by defining the zones of responsibility of each country’s rescue services.
We attach great importance to the signing of the agreement on the Caspian’s marine biological resources. This gives us the legal base for joint implementation of comprehensive measures to protect rare fish species, the sturgeon, for example. I note that a moratorium on catching Caspian sturgeon has been in place in Russia since 2005, and we have no plans to lift it before the fish population stabilises.
Incidentally, a bit later on, the five presidents will take part in a ceremony releasing young sturgeons bred in Astrakhan Region into the Volga. They are a very valuable fish species and the Caspian’s symbol.
Our many years of work on a cooperation agreement in the area of hydrometeorology have reached a successful conclusion. The agreement will enable us to set up a regional system for exchanging information on the state of the Caspian, needed for ensuring safe navigation and oil production.
It is good to see that we are developing new forums for discussing regional cooperation opportunities. A business forum and a Caspian Youth Summit took place with great success on the summit’s sidelines this year.
In conclusion, I want to thank our colleagues for their constructive spirit and the fruitful discussions, and I want to thank the Astrakhan Region authorities and the people of Astrakhan for their consideration and patience with regard to any logistical inconveniences that perhaps arose, and for giving us a friendly atmosphere in which to work together.
Thank you for your attention.
I agree completely with my colleagues who called this summit a breakthrough. This is indeed the case, as we agreed on the principles underpinning our cooperation, the principles for settling the main issues concerning our work together on the Caspian, and we cemented them in the declaration adopted today.
This is truly a breakthrough. Our experts worked on this long and hard and I say thank you very much to them for this. I also want to thank the members of the press for the attention you have given our work.
Thank you very much.